Supporting Small Scale Farmers Directly
What is REKO?
REKO is a Finnish trade model, created by Thomas Snellman, meaning fair consumption. The model has had remarkable success in Europe and is rapidly expanding.
In summary, it is a Facebook based pre-ordering system for local products.
The aim of a REKO Ring is to create a direct relationship between customers and small scale producers. The ultimate goal is to have a market of fresh, healthy, local produce while also supporting small scale producers to create a viable enterprise and sustain their ethical/organic production values.
The main aims of a REKO Ring are:
- Local and ethical/organic production
- Direct relationship between producer and consumer
- Produced by the producer themselves with transparent production operations
By ordering on Facebook and collecting from the producer in person, collections often become social gatherings – a chat amongst producers sharing a tip or two, or between consumer and producer while handing over goods, is part of the value of this model.
Bramleigh Farm initiated the first ever REKO Ring outside of Europe, in Africa… in the small, hardly-even-a-dot-on-the-map town, Nottingham Road! We had spent one too many days sitting around at farmer’s markets, with chicken rapidly defrosting that we wouldn’t be able to sell. A pre-order system made so much sense!
Since REKO started in Finland, most of the information we found was in Finnish and had to be translated to English. We thought it might be useful to others looking to start a REKO Ring to have an English version:) Feel free to use this information, but the artwork is restricted to our REKO Ring.
Strictly no resale
No resale may take place – each producer may only sell what they themselves have produced or manufactured from their own raw materials (eg meat and vegetables, by-products such as skin, wool, wax etc or processed products such as juice, jam, pestos etc.). Handing your product over directly to the customer means automatic accountability! A lot of trust develops between producer and consumer, this breeds loyalty.
There is no clear distinction on what defines local and each REKO Ring will need to define that for their context. We chose to keep it under an hour radius. Or use Joel Salatin’s delivery radius – if you can travel there and back for a day trip, he’ll deliver.
For our REKO Ring establishment, we were sure to make it clear that producers have to deliver in person to establish a relationship with the consumer. If you only had one order, would you still be happy to drive that distance? That helps define local.
All organisation of a REKO Ring is volunteer based. Those who initiate and manage a REKO Ring do not receive any compensation. The better organised a market is, the better the revenue will be so it makes sense to ensure you have a strong administrative team.
The two strict no-no’s of a REKO Ring are allowing middle-men (resale of products) and allowing money to change hands in exchange for participation. Being a volunteer based market, REKO Rings can appeal for support for advertising etc. by being a common-good organisation. Alternatively, maybe the producers may all agree to pay for a signboard, newspaper advert etc.?
The main organisational roles are setting up the Facebook group and producer application form. From there, it is simply maintaining the group. This involves approving producer applications, moderating the posts on Facebook – only allowing sales related posts, only approved producers can post, and deleting the feed at the end of the week so that a new advertising post can be posted by each producer with their available products for the coming week.
Having an event linked to the page helps with advertising, with details of delivery times and points back to the main REKO page for consumers to see the producer adverts.
You could also have another closed Facebook (or WhatsApp) group for producers only to discuss any organisational issues, growing tips etc.
Having a small group of administrators helps with processing all the producer applications as this can work as an advisory committee too.
How to start a REKO Ring
Start by gathering a group of interested producers. The more producers in the group, the better the variety, competitive prices and interest for consumers.
Producers should fill in a producer application form outlining their products and production processes. This helps ensure producers are committed and there is a record of all applicants. Only those who have been approved may post on Facebook.
Next would be to set up a closed Facebook group and add interested producers and consumers.
We are often asked –
“Why Facebook?” Or “What if I am not on Facebook?”
Facebook is an ideal platform for this type of sales model because a REKO Ring is run by volunteers. There is no savings fund for advertising so a free advertising platform is necessary.
Secondly, only interested parties can join the group – it doesn’t become like one of those spammy emails that you were somehow automatically subscribed to last year Wednesday and have no interest in the 10 000 emails sent a day.
The group is also able to be controlled – producers and consumers can be added, and also removed if they do not adhere to the guidelines.
Facebook provides an easy to access, easy to use platform for multiple consumers to see the adverts of multiple producers and for consumers to quickly and easily respond.
So while it may not be for everyone, it certainly ticks the boxes for the REKO model to work.
Facebook provides free advertising by sharing the group. This next step helps to add more people to the group.
Agreeing on a day, time and place for pick up that accommodates both producers and consumers is the next step. This is a challenging step to try and meet the needs of as many busy schedules as possible.
Once a critical number of producers and consumers are on the group, advertising can begin for an official launch date.
Each week, producers will post what products they have for sale and how each was produced. It is important that producers are clear about the ingredients and processing/manufacturing process of each item in an effort to create a transparent market. Being a co-created market, the customers can then decide which products/processes they value. In countries where there are strict regulations about the sale of food items, producers must be responsible for the packaging, labelling and ingredients list for each item, to be in line with local regulations.
Producers will only post adverts for REKO Rings that they are able to attend, and the quantities available for each meet up. The value of this is that should a producer not have a consistent supply, they can simply post the products and quantities they do have each week. For the success of a REKO Ring, there needs to be a certain amount of consistency, or enough consistent producers advertising to keep the products varied and interesting.
Customers order by commenting directly on each producer’s post. Once you have commented to place an order, you are obligated to pay for the products. Producers may request prepayment or take payment on delivery.
All transactions are between producer and consumer directly. Should the customer not be able to collect at the REKO Ring, collection must be arranged directly with the producer. Delivery takes place on a set day, for a set length of time. All producers meet customers at the collection point.